Dubbing and subtitling are processes used in relation to the translation of audio, often in film or television shows, or online video content. In dubbing, original speech or dialogue is replaced with translated spoken audio; with subtitling, dialogue in a foreign language is replaced with a written translation, or dialogue from the same language is employed (in the form of closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing). This blog post will explore the pros and cons of both.
When using dubbing on sound, video is made easier for the viewer to understand and follow. The viewer focuses on listening to the speech, rather than having to read subtitles at the same time, making the experience less demanding. In addition, the absence of subtitling means there is less distraction from what is happening onscreen; the viewer’s attention is therefore fully on the action in the film or programme. When dubbing is used, emotion is more easily conveyed and viewers are able to relate to the content. Dubbing is particularly useful for visually impaired or illiterate audiences. People in such categories are able to access the content of the video, without being faced with the challenge of reading captions onscreen. For viewers watching programmes dubbed with their own language, viewing is easier due to familiarity. With this speech replication, overall there is less condensation of information.
In terms of negatives, there can be an issue with timing. The translated audio needs to appear to match to the original speech, therefore some meaning may be lost. The original soundtrack is removed entirely from the video, and, consequently, there is a lack of authenticity. Whilst following dubbed sound, viewers are subject to distraction from other sounds within their immediate environment, and this can lead to confusion. Dubbing is the more expensive option and, in terms of turnaround time for the finished product, it is the lengthier process.
In comparison, subtitling is a less expensive method of translation than that of dubbing. The translations tend to be more exact and there is an authenticity in the sense that viewers are able to hear the voices of the original actors; the result is often closer to that of the original video. An advantage of subtitling is that viewers are able to follow what is being described, despite distraction from background sounds. Furthermore, the use of subtitles promotes not only development of reading skills, but it also encourages the acquisition of vocabulary in a variety of languages. Whilst subtitling excludes visually-impaired or illiterate people, it does cater very well to deaf viewers. Action is summed up concisely and enables the deaf to follow the onscreen action at pace.
However, despite its obvious strengths, subtitling brings with it several issues. Subtitles are limited to two-line captions at a time, meaning that information has to be condensed. Inevitably, there is a limit to the subtitling of complex dialogue; therefore, the content may be affected. Unlike full vision afforded to dubbed video, subtitling obscures the picture with text, thus causing distraction from what is being demonstrated onscreen. Processing written text takes longer than taking on sound, so this results in the necessity for viewers to read subtitles in good time, notwithstanding the fact that they must have a reasonable level of literacy to be able to read the text in the first place.
Dubbing Vs Subtitling
In summary, dubbing and subtitling have their own benefits and disadvantages. What will determine your choice of method is largely down to your target audience. Considering their needs is paramount, and exploring limitations of each method will assist you in your choice.
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